At a much-anticipated press conference yesterday, the ACO & FIA World Endurance Championship announced the confirmed the teams that have been invited to race at the 82nd running of the Le Mans 24 Hours later this year.
2014 sees the introduction of new technical rules and regulations for the teams & a new logo for the rest of us to get used to.
The new technical regulations are designed to encourage sustainable development with a lower carbon footprint whilst maintaining performance on the track. For example the cars in the top LMP1 category will use around 30% less fuel compared to the cars of last year.
16 years after their last victory at Le Mans, Porsche will return with 2 new hybrid 919 cars. They will be up against the experience of Audi who will be defending their Le Mans crown with 3 new-look R18 E-tron quattros that have been rebuilt to meet the new regulations. Toyota completes the factory line-up with 2 Toyota TS040 hybrids that have also been rebuilt since last year. All 3 factory teams have also confirmed their driver line-ups for 2014. Audi have had to juggle their drivers following the retirement of Allan McNish, but with 5 Le Mans winners in cars 1 & 2 they still have plenty of experience on their side. Porsche have experience too having announced Romain Dumas & Timo Bernhard in each of their cars. Of course they will also be joined by ex-F1 superstar Mark Webber who is no stranger to Le Mans himself. Toyota has kept the same drivers as 2013 although Nicolas Lapierre & Stephane Sarrazin have switched cars.
Two privateer teams have also entered the LMP1 class in the new “light” category. Rebellion Racing has 2 new Toyota R-One cars whilst Lotus has adapted their LMP2 car from last year to meet the new regulations. Both are non-hybrid cars but can use a larger fuel supply compared to the factory hybrids.
LMP2 is the largest field at Le Mans this year with 17 cars. French team Oak Racing won in 2013 and will return to defend their title. Other returning teams include Greaves Motorsport, Thiriet by TDS Racing, Murphy Prototypes, Pecom Racing & Signatech Alpine. Newcomers to this class include SMP Racing and Millennium Racing make this a difficult category to predict. British race fans will be buoyed by the return of Strakka Racing to the LMP2 class after a year in LMP1. They now have a new Dome chassis with a reliable Nissan powered engine making Strakka one of the teams to watch out for.
Murphy Prototypes LMP2
After two outings as a driver (2005 & 2006) the 9 time world rally champion Sebastien Loeb returns to Le Mans as a manager of his own team in LMP2. No doubt they will be professionally prepared and quick so have to be considered as a challenger.
The Ligier name also returns to Le Mans in 2014. Ligier made their debut at Le Mans in 1970 and contended Le Mans for the next 5 years. Oak Racing- Team Asia and Thiriet by TDS Racing both bring a new Ligier designed LMP2 prototype back to Le Mans.
LM GTE Pro Entries
12 cars will compete in the GTE Pro class at Le Mans 2014. There are 3 entries for Aston Martin Racing, 2 each for AF Corse Ferrari, Corvette Racing, SRT Vipers & Porsche Team Manthey. All of these are factory backed programmes. The exception is RAM Racing who are the only privateer entering a Ferrari 458 Italia in the FIA WEC.
Porsche are also entered in LMP1 but will be difficult to beat in this class too with driver Patrick Pilet already victorious this year at the Rolex 24 at Daytona. The American challenge comes from the Corvettes and Vipers who experienced technical difficulties in January’s 24 hours at Daytona, but will surely have put that behind them come Le Mans. British fans will be looking forward to seeing a 3 pronged attack on the GTE Pro title from Aston Martin Racing who name, Bruno Senna, Darren Turner & Stefan Mucke as 3 of their drivers. All have experience and are quick at Le Mans.
LM GTE Am Entries
16 cars make up the LM GTE Am field with Aston Martin again well represented with 4 cars. 3 cars are entered by Aston Martin Racing whilst the other is from Craft Racing in Hong Kong, who gains an initiation after success in the 2013 Asian Le Mans Series.
Regulars IMSA Performance Matmut will be leading the charge for Porsche after winning in 2013. There are 4 teams entering with Porsches including the return of American actor Patrick Dempsey with the Dempsey Racing- Proton team. Many eyes will be on him.
Porsche 911 RSR
No less than 8 Ferraris make up the GTE Am grid. AF Corse (the Ferrari factory team) claim 4 of those with 8 Star Motorsport, SMP Racing (also in LMP2), Ram Racing (Also in GTE Pro) and new team Sofrev ASP. This final team is notable for driver Fabien Barthez, who won the football world cup with France as a goalkeeper in 1998. Barthez has since made the conversion to motorsport and won the French GT Title last year. As the football world cup kicks off in Brazil over Le Mans weekend we hope that he will not be too distracted.
The presence of the Nissan ZEOD RC was announced at last year’s race and follows in the footsteps of the DeltaWing (now racing in TUSCC in the USA) and the aborted Green GT H2 project. This invitation to Le Mans is reserved for innovative cars and although they are outside the overall classification, they still need to comply with ACO safety and performance standards. The ZEOD RC is powered by a 1.5 litre, 3 cylinder engine with a hybrid energy recovery system that allows the driver to switch from thermal to electric energy on the track.
Nissan ZEOD RC
So 56 cars have now been selected for the Le Mans 24 Hours 2014. 5 LMP2 cars, 4 LM GTE Am cars & 1 GTE Pro car also wait expectantly on the reserve list. We may yet see plenty of changes between now and June.
Download the full Le Mans 2014 Entry list here.
If you want to be at Le Mans this year & you haven’t yet booked then there is still some availability for travel and ticket & camping packages though Travel Destinations here at www.lemansrace.com
Call us now on 0844 873 0203 to book your place at Le Mans 2014.
Written by Richard Webb
Photos by Dailysportscar